Written and Directed by Daniel Metcalf
Cinematography and Editing by Sam Thomas
Starring Callum Metcalf, Jacob Arnold, and John Cuffe
Short Film Review by Euan Franklin
There is a degree of trepidation whenever an amateur production has chosen the mockumentary style. Many first-time filmmakers think it’s a fast-track route, without considering whether it suits the story. Professionals make the same mistake. You could say that somewhere between This is Spinal Tap and Modern Family, the meaning of the mockumentary has been lost. Nowadays, the style is nothing more than a gimmick – if not at first, then certainly by the fifth season.
It is, therefore, refreshing that the story of The Job Hunt lends itself so well to the genre – to the point where it couldn’t be told another way. Callum (Callum Metcalf) is an unemployed, unqualified, and underdeveloped 19-year-old striving for a decent job. The trouble? He always screws up the interviews. With help from his friends and family, he tries to lift himself out of apathy and into the work place.
Callum can be a monotonous presence within the film, carved with one gormless expression, and there is a constant contradiction between his character and Metcalf’s performance. The opening talking-head interview presents Callum as a reserved, perhaps introverted teenager – but later in the film, he is fed lines like “Don’t need luck, mate. I’m a natural!” and “I always thought I was too good for a lot of jobs”. Would a character with such an expressionless demeanour really stoop to this level of arrogance?
The limelight is taken away from Metcalf to shine brightly on supporting actor John Cuffe. The latter gives a standout performance as an arrogant but energetic character, releasing a vivid presence on-screen (unlike his fellow actors). It’s a shame the director didn’t have Cuffe as the main character – as it would have hydrated certain scenes where the energy turns sluggish. The writer/director Daniel Metcalf constructs his supporting characters with detail unusual in amateur productions, displaying funny quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them enjoyable to watch. Even Callum, despite his tedium, can be quite alluring.
However, these qualities are clouded by Metcalf’s ignorance of the genre he’s playing with. Sam Thomas’ clunky cinematography proceeds with a disconcerting lack of care and consideration – shown in the feeble attempts at quick-zooms, made popular by shows like The Office. Thomas’ zooms aren’t smooth or motivated. They don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing. If they’re for a comic reaction, we don’t see it. If they’re to capture an important turning point, we don’t know about it. What’s left is the creaking of the lens wheel as Thomas readjusts during scenes. The story isn’t about what’s happening on-screen anymore – it’s about the frustrated cameraman.
Worse than the unplanned visuals was the under-prepared sound quality. We’re expected to sit and watch characters who can barely be heard. One scene is infected with crunches of static noise from somebody’s mobile phone. In another, there is breathing behind the camera. It’s hardly a surprise that the name of the sound recorder doesn’t fade up in the end credits. If there was one on-set, they clearly didn’t want their name attached. They might’ve found it difficult finding another job.
The Job Hunt is like an unrevised first draft: a bad beginning, improving in the middle, but reaching no great height by the end. It finishes on a frustrating ambiguity for no good reason, and there’s no overwhelming sense that anything’s changed – despite the interviewer’s insistence to the contrary. Overall, the premise is good, the jokes are funny, and it suits the mockumentary style – but the result feels stunted, made with apathy instead of vigour. I’m afraid this application for my enjoyment has been unsuccessful.